PARIS, February 16. /TASS/. French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko on Monday discussed by phone the situation in southeast Ukraine on the second day of a new ceasefire deal taking effect, the French presidential office said.
The three countries’ leaders expressed "alarm in connection with continuation of fighting" near Debaltsevo.
They also spoke for "free access of OSCE observers" to the combat operations zone.
Earlier, self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) Defense Ministry spokesman Eduard Basurin said the area near Debaltsevo is not safe because Ukrainian law enforcers are constantly shelling it.
Thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands of people have fled Ukraine’s embattled east as a result of clashes between Ukrainian troops and local militias in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions during Kiev’s military operation, conducted since mid-April 2014, to regain control over parts of the breakaway territories, which call themselves the DPR and the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR).
The parties to the Ukrainian conflict mediated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) agreed on a ceasefire at talks on September 5, 2014 in Belarusian capital Minsk two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed his plan to settle the situation in the east of Ukraine.
Since then, there have been numerous reports of violations of the ceasefire, which took effect the same day.
Ukraine’s parliament on September 16, 2014 adopted the law on a special self-rule status for certain districts in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions for three years. The law took effect October 18, 2014 but was then repealed by Kiev.
The Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine comprising representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE adopted a memorandum on September 19, 2014 in Minsk. The document outlined the parameters for the implementation of commitments on the ceasefire in Ukraine laid down in the Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014.
The nine-point memorandum in particular envisioned a ban on the use of all armaments and withdrawal of weapons with the calibers of over 100 millimeters to a distance of 15 kilometers from the contact line from each side. The OSCE was tasked with controlling the implementation of memorandum provisions.
The Contact Group’s meeting in late December 2014 ended with no major results. The meeting scheduled for January 16, 2015 did not take place as no representatives of Kiev arrived in Minsk.
A regular meeting of the Contact Group on Ukrainian settlement occurred January 31 and ended without visible results. DPR and LPR representatives Denis Pushilin and Vladislav Deinego stressed that Kiev presents ultimatums to militiamen instead of talks.
Regular talks of the participants of the Contact Group on settlement of the situation in eastern Ukraine were held in Minsk on February 10-12. Talks of the Normandy Four (Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France) on the Ukrainian issue also ended February 12 in Minsk.
At the Contact Group’s latest meeting, a 13-point set of measures on implementation of the Minsk agreements were adopted, in particular, the agreement on cessation of fire from February 15, withdrawal of heavy armaments, as well as measures on long-term political settlement of the situation in Ukraine, including enforcement of the special self-rule status for certain districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
The document was signed by OSCE Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini, ex-Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma, Russian Ambassador in Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov, as well as DPR and LPR leaders Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky.